Whether you slipped and sliced the pad of your finger open while preparing vegetables for dinner, or your five year old jumped off the playground and is crying due to severe ankle pain, or your fourteen year old has come back from baseball practice with a large, dark bruise on his forehead and a massive headache—you, as an individual, parent, guardian, or caretaker may find yourself in occasional situations when you have to make a quick, important decision that could seriously affect someone’s health. There’s an emergency room just on the edge of your neighborhood, but you can also vaguely recall the urgent care locations near you. How do you know which facility can best served you and your loved ones in the most timely, yet economic, manner?
As a parent, everything that happens to your children can appear to be life threatening. However, it’s important to remember that visiting the emergency room unnecessarily can not only congest the system for people who are truly teetering on life and death as well as cripple your finances for months to come. Emergency room care should be reserved for these crises, as a general rule of thumb: loss of limb or loss of life. Urgent care locations aren’t usually equipped to tend to amputee situations or life-threatening ailments, including heart attacks, stokes, or extremely severe wounds.
You may be forced to seek medical help at an emergency room if you seek to address a situation after urgent care clinic hours; if the problem at hand can’t wait for the clinic to reopen, it should probably be deemed an emergency best addressed at the ER. However, if you can hold out until morning or whenever the clinic reopens, you may save your wallet a blow. 85% of urgent care clinics across the country are open seven days a week; the odds of you having to suffer through a weekend with an uncomfortable—but not life threatening—situation are fairly slim.
What’s the big deal with avoiding the emergency room? Well, the more unnecessary visits to the ER, the longer the wait for people who are truly in need of life-saving care, and the higher the health care costs for you. If you visit an emergency room with a situation that could have been treated by other urgent care locations, the facility will still treat you, just with a higher price tag; however, on the reverse side, if you visit an urgent care center and they are not equipped to treat you, they can refer you to the right facility to help you. So, when in doubt, visit your local urgent care location and ask the doctors for their advice. Most centers can treat fractures, minor burns, muscle strains, respiratory conditions, hemorrhoids, some infections, and more.